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The Answer to Your Next Brainstorm is a Better Question

One of the most important points of message training is to avoid speculation if you don’t know the answer to a question. It’s better to say, “I don’t know” than to send reporters or audiences spiraling with potential misinformation. That said, this point can be much easier to teach than to practice.Question Mark on a Chalk Board

I, like many other senior-level professionals, take pride in having answers. After all, what is my 20 years of experience worth if I don’t know the solution to my client’s or team’s problems? But sometimes I find it particularly hard to say, “I don’t know,” or to ask additional questions rather than just jump in with an answer – no matter how preliminary or unknown that answer or solution might be. As it turns out, I’m not alone…

Why Questions Are Scary

My colleague Brooke Willard recently wrote a poignant blog post about overcoming imposter syndrome. In it, she describes that sinking feeling of being an imposter in your own field when asked a question to which you don’t know the answer.

Hal Gregersen underscored this issue in a Harvard Business Journal article about better brainstorming when he noted that people with the most senior positions and greatest technical expertise can be the most challenged when it comes to asking questions rather than offering answers when faced with a problem. Why? Because they’re often afraid of looking incompetent if they don’t have the answers. Sound familiar? It certainly does to me – so I was thrilled this article also offered some suggestions about how to handle this better. Read more after the jump…

Baby Boomers and the Buzz on Brackets


We collectively sprang forward in the early morning hours of Sunday and digital platforms are bouncing into action as well. If you could use some inspiration to end your work week, today’s Weekly Reads dishes on how to protect your mental health from your seemingly endless Instagram feed. Also on deck: targeting baby boomers and our admiration for Facebook and Twitter as they take on the giant task of curating Major League Baseball and March Madness, respectively.


U.S. News & World Report: More Live Sports Are Coming To Facebook
Swing, batter batter! The ink is drying on a deal between Major League Baseball and Facebook. Facebook will exclusively stream 25 weekday afternoon baseball games this season. Bloomberg theories that the deal cost the social platform around $30M. The partnership is the first of its kind between Facebook and a major professional sports league. Read more after the jump…

CenterTable @ SXSW 2018: Monday Favorites

Monday was our final full day in Austin as SXSW 2018 finally winds down. You can see the business-folk start to filter out and the fresh faced music fans start to take over the town with energy that we all left with the weekend.


Gus's fried chicken

We can’t hit up SXSW without a stop at Gus’s Fried Chicken. It’s an Austin staple.

Read more after the jump…

SXSW 2018: Why Carly Rae Jepsen Should Be Every Communicator’s Inspiration

When you think about how to tell a story, you don’t usually think about numbers. But a pair of scientists who changed careers to focus on communications, Randy Olson and Jayde Lovell, are breaking narrative down into a simple equation that allows you to quantify the strength of your narratives.

Inspired by the writers of South Park

They were inspired after listening to the creators of South Park talk about how they approach their scripts. In their second draft for each episode, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a Rule of Replacing: “Every time you replace an “AND” with a “BUT” or “THEREFORE” the storytelling gets better.”

Read more after the jump…

CenterTable @ SXSW 2018: Sunday Favorites

Day three at SXSW is now in the books. We ventured into another activation but didn’t have quite the same luck that we did at Westworld on day one. However, some great friends, good food and interesting sessions more than made up for it.


Gimme a large Bob #bobarmstrongdip #texmex

A post shared by Brandy Gibbs (@finehomedining) on

We cancelled a fancy dinner reservation because we felt like it was time for some good old-fashioned Tex-Mex. We weren’t disappointed at Matt’s El Rancho and their famous Bob Armstrong Dip.

Read more after the jump…

SXSW 2018: Serve Ads to the Circumstance, Not Just the Individual

Potbelly Smile ScaleAs marketers, one of the first and most important things that we can do for our business is to identify the audiences for our product or service. Our audiences (yes, that should always be plural) are typically defined by a combination of demographics and psychographics that help us fit a diverse selection of human beings into a few loosely constructed boxes. But with an unprecedented amount of data now available to businesses it’s time that we introduce context and circumstance into the equation.

Read more after the jump…

SXSW 2018: Knowing what makes people tick can get them to click

People are humans, and humans are unique and complex. It seems obvious, but it’s something marketers and businesses sometimes forget. There are many ways to slice and dice people into groups to target, but the closer you get to understanding what a unique individual likes, wants and feels, the closer you’ll get to motivating them to action. The challenge, as always, is how to do that at scale.

Brian Cugelman, a neuroscientist presenting at 2018 SXSW Interactive Conference, has developed a framework called SPEAR. Think Myers-Briggs, but reimagined using brain science. Using his framework he talked through how to design marketing materials for people based on their personality test results. Someone he classifies as an “Empat” would like community- or social-oriented communications. Basically, he boils it down to understanding what kinds of things were attractive, or repulsive, to different personalities.

Read more after the jump…

CenterTable @ SXSW 2018: Friday Favorites

Days one and two at SXSW were as fabulous and weird as ever. Two dinners, one very, very long and one wonderfully quick, a session or two (OK, just one) and a trip to the old West(world) got us immersed in everything Interactive all over again.


Pirhana Sushi delivered a fantastic meal in under 40 minutes (which was fantastic since we didn’t sit down until 9:00 p.m.).


Read more after the jump…

SXSW 2018: Lessons From Westworld’s Unforgettable Experience

Westworld at SXSWSXSW Interactive is inherently about digital communications. How, as individuals and marketers, we use social media, smart phones and digital advertising to connect, one-to-one or one-to-many.

But the prevalence of these digital tools and our reliance on them to reach large, hopefully targeted, audiences at scale has caused brands to lose touch with the importance of creating experiences that their fans can share both online and off.

Read more after the jump…